The coffee from this central American country is one of the best gourmet coffee types in the world, and can be found in the most exclusive markets. With its fineness and amazing flavours it has been captivating coffee lovers everywhere

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History of coffee in El Salvador

Coffee arrived in this country between 1800 and 1815. The first “boom” of the coffee-talera agro-industry in the country occurred 70 years after the beginning of coffee cultivation, when it replaced indigo as the main export product. In 1940, coffee already represented 90% of the total value of the country’s exports. Between 1950 and 1970, Salvadoran coffee-growing was the protagonist of a technological modernization: new varieties were introduced, such as bourbon, and the Institute for Coffee Research was created.

Export data. Period of time 1989/90 – 2020/21

Overview of export data until 30 April, 2021

These factors, together with two decades of political stability, made the country one of the most productive in the world, enjoying a respected image for its quality. El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – these three countries were then known as the “Three Coffee Riders of Central America”. However, for more than a decade (1981-1992) El Salvador lived through a bloody civil war that slowed down much of the country’s development. During this period, its coffee industry stagnated significantly. Once this period was over, though, its people were looking to renew the coffee industry by improving the quality of the coffee beans and the land. Nowadays, estimates put the area occupied by coffee at 152,339 hectares.

Percentage of producers by region

Coffee characteristics

El Salvador is a country with 100% arabica coffee, and the characteristics of each coffee vary, depending on each area.  About 68% of the territory dedicated to coffee production is planted with Bourbon coffee trees, 29% with Pacas and the remaining 3% with varieties such as Caturra, Catuai, Catistic and Pacamara, a hybrid obtained in El Salvador, the result of crossing the variety Pacas with Maragogipe Rojo. It is a tall plant, with intermediate-length internodes, curly leaves, dark green and larger than the Paca variety. The fruit is of a good size and is grown at altitudes between 900 and 1,500 metres. Its average productivity is between 18 and 85 quintals.

The coffees of El Salvador share quite similar tasting notes, the highlights of their most particular characteristics being their good taste, pleasant sweetness, balanced body and excellent aftertaste.

The Salvadoran Coffee Council, in a full-scale effort to place the country’s grain in the best gourmet markets in the world, has established a demanding classification system for its coffee, which must comply with such particularities as to be hand-cleaned, processed with fresh water, picked red, with 0% defective beans. Only if it meets these and other standards can it receive the gourmet denomination and be sold packed in special bags with this name.

Salvadoran coffee has a good reputation worldwide for its sweetness, its body, its acidity and a series of attributes that enchant not only the palate, but also the sense of smell of those who taste it. The local grain has been mostly unknown, having been mixed with coffee from other countries so that nobody would ever know they were drinking the coffee from El Salvador.

Denomination of quality

The Salvadoran coffee obtained the Denomination of Origin in 2010, and this certification means that the foreign buyer can be assured that the coffee he buys is produced in a certain place and that it meets certain characteristics that the market recognizes. Having the seal gives added value to the beans and enables them to access the international markets. In this way, the coffee is sold at the right price for a high-quality type of coffee (Forum del Café, 2012).

Coffee export per country of destination

Countries that import coffee from El Salvador

Consejo Salvadoreño del Café

This institution was created on October 19, 1989, and it is an autonomous state institution.

The objectives of the institution are to:

  • Improve the promotion and positioning of “Café de El Salvador®” in national and international markets.
  • Encourage the internal consumption of coffee.
  • Contribute to the presidential programs that support the industry.
  • Provide strategic information on the coffee market through daily reports on the relevant factors that affect price behaviour.
  • Promote the culture of quality coffee production with the development of programs or events that encourage the participation of coffee growers.
  • Contribute to the decision-making and transparency of the coffee market.
  • Strengthen cooperation ties for the sustainability of national and international coffee growing.

Its mission is to formulate the policy regarding coffee and other activities related to the coffee agroindustry, promote sustainable and competitive coffee growing and pursue the socio-economic and environmental development of the country.

Its vision, on the other hand, is to be a leading institution in providing necessary instruments for the development of the coffee sector, and elevating the coffee of El Salvador to the highest position, nationally and internationally (Consejo Salvadoreño del Café, n.d.).

La Sociedad Cooperativa de Cafetaleros de Ciudad Barrios

In El Salvador, coffee was introduced in the mid-eighteenth century by Captain General Gerardo Barrios, who at the time was the President of the Republic. He brought the plant from the distant lands of the East to later plant it in El Salvador.

Gerardo Barrios introduced the coffee to the municipality of Ciudad Barrios (which was then called Capayguantique) and it was precisely in the Gavidia farm, the property of Barrios, where it all started.

From this farm the plant was then spread throughout the municipality, which became the main producer of coffee beans which were then sold throughout the country. This way other municipalities, such as Santiago de María and Berlin, themselves became the centres of coffee production.

La Sociedad Cooperativa de Cafetaleros de Ciudad Barrios emerged in 1972 and it soon became one of the strongest companies in the country, comparable only to the cooperative La Majada of the western zone.

The association has been exporting hundreds of quintals a year to Europe, with the support of the international quality seal of Rainforest Alliance, awarded only to farms that meet high production standards (Sociedad Cooperativa de Ciudad Barrios de R.L.. n.d.).

Belco opens their agency in El Salvador

Their reason for opening this agency, as they said, is to “have a foot in the country of origin for 365 days a year, to be close to the producers and go as far as possible in the traceability of the green coffee purchases”. By being close to the producers and the lands of coffee, it will shorten the whole coffee chain and help them concentrate on what matters most to them, which is sourcing. This way, their customers will be more satisfied and surer of the coffee beans’ quality, because there will be somebody in direct contact with the producers, while for their part the producers will feel more supported and satisfied with the Belco staff always nearby.

Source: YouTube

They chose El Salvador because it allows them to centralize their sourcing from all the neighboring countries and be within a short distance of every Central American producer. And not only that! They also claim they have a very strong bond with this country and many people on their staff are from it.

Among many other things, El Salvador is a centre for the analysis of green samples where they test, cup and examine all offers and shipment samples. There is also a fully equipped laboratory at the disposal of producers, which helps to guarantee that the coffee that is being shipped is only of the highest quality (Belco, 2021).


Forum del Café, 2012. El Salvador. Retrieved June 29, 2021 from

Sociedad Cooperativa de Ciudad Barrios de R.L.. n.d. Retrieved June 29, 2021 from

Consejo Salvadoreño del Café, n.d. Retrieved June 29, 2021 from

Belco, 2021. El Salvador, the place to be! Retrieved June 29, 2021 from

Pictures used:

  • A panoramic view of the coffee forest in Los Naranjos, El Salvador with the Izalco volcano in the background,
  • EL SALVADOR – CIRCA 1938: A stamp printed in el Salvador shows ship loaded with sacks of coffee, circa 1938
  • Selangor, Malaysia – January 2019 : A bottle of Original Fritz Minges coffee brand display at supermarket shelf – Image
  • Coffee Beds and coffee plantation in Ahuachapan El Salvador
  • Roasted coffee beans on a map of Central America

Picture credits: when not specified, the pictures are from Shutterstock